[Book Review] The Sciences of the Artificial (3rd Ed)

simon In a nutshell, this book blew me away!  I’m giving it 6 stars (out of 5).

After seeing this book referenced in another book I’m currently reading and also seeing it on the SEI’s Essential Collection, I thought it would be a good idea to pick up a copy.  The 3rd edition is the most recent printing (1996), but the original was published back in 1969.  If you can find a book on technical topics that’s as old as this one, you know you’ve found a good one.

The Artificial?  You mean AI?

No, not even close.  The first chapter does a great job describing the difference between the natural and the artificial.  In short, anything that’s man made is artificial.  That includes everything from software to skyscrapers.  The obvious conclusion reached at the start of the book, is that our classical sciences only deal with things as they are.  Given an existing structure, for example, the classical sciences allow us to reason about the various properties of the item in question.  What they don’t tell us directly, is how to design something artificial, from scratch, to best meet the needs of the intended user, consumer, etc.  From this point, the author lays out a very compelling mini-curriculum on the subject of design.

Overall, I found this book to be very thought provoking.  It will definitely be one of those books I reread down the road.

A couple of other interesting facts about this particular book:

  • The author is a professor of computer science and psychology at Carnegie Mellon University and the 1978 Nobel Laureate in Economics
  • It was published by MIT Press

While I highly recommend this book, if you put a couple others under your belt first, the book will jump out considerably more.  In particular, start with a good study on the topic of Quality Attributes first.  You will quickly make the connections if you do.  I recommend this one.

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